As expected, the Miami Heat are off to an excellent start to the 2013-14 season.
They are 24-7 and just one game behind the Indiana Pacers for the best record in the Eastern Conference, despite having a maintenance plan for Dwyane Wade that has resulted in the star player missing eight games.
However, even though the Heat have played great basketball, they should be disappointed in a few aspects of their season. We're going to take an in-depth look at those disappointments and what they've meant to Miami.
The Heat have developed a reputation over the past couple of years as a team that sometimes plays down to its competition. Well, Miami didn't make any headway to shedding that label at the start of this season.
The Heat lacked any semblance of defensive intensity in those three games and paid for it. Their most disappointing performance came against Boston, where they allowed 111 points (and two 30-plus-point quarters) to a team that averages 95.1 points per game.
While the embarrassing losses did seem to light a fire under the Heat, which won 11 straight after the Celtics game, the bad showings could come back to bite them in the race for the top seed in the East.
Udonis Haslem entered the 2013-14 campaign as a valuable role player. At his worst, he could provide rebounds and physical defense, and at his best, he could knock down a mid-range jumper as well.
After 31 games, he is a benchwarmer who averages just 6.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, after grabbing 10.3 last year. He is sinking around 25 percent of his jumpers further than nine feet from the hoop, according to NBA.com, and the Heat have allowed 119.2 points per 100 possessions when he's been on the court, per 82games.com.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Bleacher Report's Wes Goldberg gave Haslem an "F" in his year-end grades for Heat players.
Simply put, it's hard to imagine a more disappointing start to the season for him.
Shane Battier was one of the Heat's biggest three-point weapons last season. He knocked down a team-best 42.0 percent of his deep balls. More importantly, given that the Heat's offensive system places a premium on threes from the corners, he converted 46.7 percent of his corner threes, according to Vorped.com.
But he hasn't been nearly as prolific this season. His 33.7 three-point percentage ranks just 10th on the team (he's behind even Chris Bosh), and while his 39.02 percent mark from the corners is nothing to sneeze at, it represents a large drop-off from a season ago.
Battier has hit 9-of-20 three-pointers in Miami's last six games, so hopefully he's starting to regain his 2012-13 form.
The Heat's 90-84 loss on Dec. 10 to Indiana is far from an embarrassing one, obviously. The Pacers are a fantastic team (25-6), and the game took place in Indiana, where the home team has a record of 15-1.
Still, Miami not only missed a chance to give the Pacers—who aren't going to lose many games this season—another L, but it also missed a chance to crush the Indy's spirit.
One would think that a loss to the Heat at home would have been demoralizing for Indiana, especially after Lance Stephenson said the Pacers were treating the matchup like a "championship game," according to Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post. In addition, Paul George said he dedicated his summer to beating Miami, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
While the Heat would pay the Pacers back in Miami eight days later with a 97-94 win, the missed opportunity at a 2-0 series lead and all the lost confidence for Indiana that would have come with it has to sting for Miami.
Let's get this out of the way: The Heat don't need to rebound well to win. They won the championship last season while averaging the fewest rebounds in the league, and they are similarly putrid on the glass this season yet have a 77.4 winning percentage.
However, the fact that Miami's starting center Chris Bosh is averaging a career-low 6.4 rebounds per game—continuing a four-season trend of worsening numbers for him—is relevant.
It means something that he grabbed eight rebounds in the Heat's Dec. 18 win over the Pacers but grabbed just three in their Dec. 10 loss to Indiana.
Miami doesn't need Bosh to grab double-digit rebounds every night, but it would help, especially since a postseason matchup with the big and physical Pacers seems like destiny.